Jaina Voice

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Kamandal - Jain Emblem of Saving Ecology
'Kamadal' a small wooden handy article used to store water used for conducting the daily affairs of a Jain ascetics life signifies much more than what we perceive. In this article Gaurav Jain 'Lakshya' has thrown some light on this. Further, in a nutshell has tried to give some details on the importance of water, ways and means of conserving it and methods of purification.

The Importance of Water
Water is a miraculous elixir of life. It is essential for each and every living being on this earth. With two thirds of the earth's surface covered by water and the human body consisting of 75 percent of it, it is evidently clear that water is one of the prime elements responsible for life on earth. Water is involved & responsible for execution of bodily functions: digestion, assimilation, exclusion, respiration, maintaining temperature integrity and the strength of all bodily structures.

An average adult human body contains 42 liters of water and with just a small loss of 2.7 liters he or she can suffer from dehydration, displaying symptoms of irritability, fatigue, nervousness, dizziness, weakness, and headaches.

The History of Water
Water has been used since time immemorial in the religious activities as a symbol of expressing devotion, purity & piousness. Some cultures including Indian, Greek worship water God or Goddesses. Many cities have been built by considering the location and availability of pure drinking water. For example Damascus, Syria believed to be continuously inhabited from 5000 BC is on Barada river and Varanasi oldest inhabited city in India is in existence from about 1200 BC on the banks of River Ganga. Traditional and modern medicines are known to have been made using the varied properties of water.

Our Water Today
Contrary to the past, our modern developed technological civilization has become unresponsive to this miracle of life. Our natural heritage like rivers, seas, lakes and oceans have been subjugated, neglected and polluted with unhygienic elements.

Today, the water is polluted with millions of contaminants and toxins. Authorities test for a small number of impurities, on the contrary the actual number is pretty high. Human body, being primarily dependent on water, requires sufficient daily water replacement in order to function efficiently.

Statistics from WHO (World Health Organisation)
Here are the facts about the water crisis. Every day, thousands of people die from lack of access to clean water. The safe water issue is intimately linked to hygiene, education and proper sanitation, which is why there is a need of an integrated approach to bring safe water to the world’s poor.

3.575 million People die every year from water-related diseases, 43% of water-related deaths are due to diarrhea, 84% of water-related deaths are in children ages 0–14, 98% of water-related deaths occur in the developing world including India, 884 million people, lack access to safe water supplies, this is approximately one in every eight person in the world.

At any given point of time, half of the world’s hospital beds are occupied by patients suffering from a water-related disease, less than 1% of the world’s fresh water (or about 0.007% of all water on earth) is readily accessible for direct human use. Might be a person will be able to live for weeks but cannot live for more than a few days.

Over 50 percent of all water projects fail and less than five percent of projects are visited, and far less than one percent have any longer-term monitoring.

Jainism lays down social and religious obligations for abuse, excess use and damage of basic elements of environment like earth, water, air, fire, greenery and decree for their most minimum use. It mentions that every such element has life in it and must be valued. Jains are taught in their scriptures about the Prithvikaya (Earthly), Jalkaya (Waterly), Vayukaya (Airly) Jivas (life forms). Jainism endorses intellectual, ethical, moral & divine support for the environmental protection.

Jain Monks or preachers are the highest advocates of environment and ecology; they accord full support towards its protection & sustenance. ‘Kamandal’ a wooden handy article used to store water to be used for conducting the daily affairs of a Jain ascetics life is a live example for this.

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Kamandal - Jain Emblem of Saving Ecology - Gaurav Jain

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The water in Kamandal is boiled to decontaminate after being filtered with a cotton cloth folded 4 times end to end. The capacity of Kamandal is about 2 liters, to be used by monk for the entire day. Jain monks eat or drink only once a day to have a control over their senses, throughout their life.

The Kamandal signifies much more than  what we perceive. It tries to convey that a man should restrict his needs to have a lesser impact on earth (sounds near to carbon footprints?); further it conveys that water is life, so it be enabled to remain so; water to be used should be boiled, filtered to decontaminate it of any impurities.

‘Do not pluck flower or leaves untill and unless it is very inevitable’ is a popular quote taught to young children in Jain houses. Jainism attaches great importance to environmental concern, protection of environment and for the maintenance of ecological equilibrium of the Universe. It preaches to respect smallest animal, plant and even the microbes. Thousands of years back Tirthankars have declared that there is no difference between humans, animals, microbes & plants. All have life, take birth, need water & food to live, and die. The scientists in world have found and proved that the water filtering system of Jains is the best in world of among all the methods followed since ancient times and has contributed to a great extent for the good health of mankind. This system is a sign of health and modern civilization.

Jainism teaches vegetarianism, livelihood with limited needs, honesty, filtering of water, time limits of the food preparation, respect to others life forms, earthly elements and what not. All leads to a harmonious peaceful, pious & disease free world. Jainism is a blend of spiritual and scientific principles and modern sciences are proving it right through scientific advancements. The wording ‘Parasparopagraho Jivanam’ from the agamas conveys the harmonious interdependence of all the creatures of the world.

Every responsible Jain family observes the following prohibitions strictly:  Dirty clothes should not be cleaned in the rivers to save micro-organisms of the river from extinction. Unfiltered/ impure water should not be used. After drawing water from any source, everybody should attempt to leave remaining unfiltered water at the original source of water so that micro-organisms may live smoothly in their own habitat and maintain ecological balance. Even a drop of water should not be wasted. Leaf and flower of plants and trees should not be plucked for amusement. Any unit of heat and light energy should not be wasted.        

Hence, Kamandal is undoubtedly signifying the entire concern of Jainism for ecology and sustainment.

The present ecological imbalance has left availability of pure water open as a major issue of present times. Every day, thousands of people die from lack of access to clean water. Some of the best available resources in world are used to clean water for the rich.

Keeping in mind the traditional knowledge and the availability of water cleaning methodologies with poor people some methods of cleaning water are listed below by which if not all at least some lives can be saved.

In a recent WHO report it was mentioned that by using a cotton sari cloth folded 4 times if water is filtered, it will remove more then 60%-85% of its impurities. Our governments spend millions and billions of rupees but do not promote the simplest of steps accepted by world’s largest health organization. The reason is unknown! However, if water is filtered using the cotton cloth and boiled to 20 minutes and then rinsed it will help at least 70% of clean water starved population free from water borne diseases. These are not tall claims but a mere depiction of the idea. So whenever, you see less resourceful people or children playing in streets just as a fun teach them to clean water. At least someday some life will be saved.

Steps To Clean Water

  1. Clean the containers in which you're going to store the water. Use dish soap and water. Rinse thoroughly.
  2. Don't use any container that had milk or fruit juice in it. Milk protein and fruit sugars remain in the container and can fuel bacterial growth when water is stored. Plastic soda bottles are suitable.
  3. Filter water through a clean cotton cloth folded 4 times at least.
  4. Allow it to settle for at least 30 minutes and pour off the clear water for purifying.
  5. Boiling water to at least 20 minutes removes most types of disease-causing organisms and is the most recommended purification technique.
  6. To improve the flavor of purified water (boiled water can taste "flat", and disinfected water can have a strong chlorine taste) aerate it by pouring it from one clean container to another several times. Alternatively, add a pinch of salt to it.
  7. Once the water in a container has been purified, open and close the container carefully. Don't touch the inside or the rim with your fingers, or else the water could become contaminated. If you're going to drink some, but not all of the water, don't drink directly from the container. Pour it into another container and drink from that. Contact with your lips and mouth can contaminate water that's going to be stored.

Other considerations for boiling Water
The general advice is to boil all water for 15-20 minutes plus 1 minute for every 300m above sea level, up to around 5500m where boiling becomes ineffective. The relationship between time and temperature is inverse when it comes to water disinfection. The higher the temperature, the less time is required. Boiling water will eradicate a good proportion of all parasites and is often the easiest way to purify water, although it should be noted that the hepatitis A virus needs a full minute of boiling to eradicate. Boiling can also be used as a stage prior to other methods for extra precaution. Tea, coffee and hot water are all safe to drink as long as the water has been brought to the boil before drinking.

Some chemical methods for purifying water
Iodine Based Methods
Iodine tablets are available at many government dispensaries; its active ingredient is tetraglycine hydroperiodide. You should allow 30 minutes rather than the usual 10 if the water is cold, and it is possible to double the dose if the water is cloudy, which denotes more organic material. Note: If you are pregnant, suffering from a thyroid disease or have an iodine allergy, consult a doctor before using any iodine water disinfection methods.

Chlorine Based Methods
Super-chlorination- This uses a high dose of chlorine but later neutralizes it using hydrogen peroxide, and is very effective. Chlorine tablets- Used alone these won't protect against Giardia. Instead use a fine filter and half a tablet.

There is now convincing evidence that simple, satisfactory, low-cost interventions at the household and community level are capable of dramatically improving the microbial quality of household stored water and reducing the attendant risks of diarrheal type diseases.

The write-up is not intended to be a wide-ranging guidance or "how to" manual on household water treatment and storage or a sensible guide for the average drinking water consumer. It is hoped that this document provides a scientifically sound and supportable basis for identifying, accepting and promoting household water treatment and storage systems and technologies in line with Jain principles.

The author Sri Gaurav Jain 'Lakshya' is an IT professional based out of New Delhi. He is specialised in the field of intellectual property rights and works for----one of the world leaders in the field.


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